Do I really need a couch with cushions?

We have had this large couch in our home for many years. It was the only one we could find at the time that would fit our whole family. It is very plain looking but suits our family needs.

I remember several years ago taking a picture of my children with the lounge in the background and posting it on Instagram. I was surprised by the amount of people who immediately commented that it needed to be decorated with more cushions.

I explained to those that commented - in my home with many children - cushions were weapons!

My children love to throw cushions at each other - which normally ends up hitting furniture and wall hangings and other decorations. They also love to play games with them and cushions rarely spend any time on the couch.

The comments that then followed all said that my children just needed to learn what cushions were for. They needed to learn to not throw them around.

As a worn out Mum with a bunch of young children - I wanted to have a nice lounge room - I dreamed of having nice cushions instead of a floor of lego!

I found myself agreeing with that line of thinking. My kids would just have to learn. So I bowed to the pressure and purchased more cushions.

I sat my children down and talked to them about what the purpose of a cushion was, why I had them on the couch and asked them to please not use them as weapons against each other.

How long do you think it was before I had cushion fights happening in my lounge?
Not long at all!

After several stern reminders and a lot of replacing cushions on the couch I sat down exhausted and had a real think about the decision I had made to purchase more cushions.

I decided that when it came to cushions, I really didn't care if I had them on my couch or not. Just because other people believed I should have them didn't mean I had to.

With seven young children in nine years I have to pick my battles. I decided that the added stress of the new 'cushion battle' was not something that I needed in my life at that time.

I would rather have no cushions in my lounge and have one less argument with kids. The extra peace and a good relationship with my children was more important than a nice looking couch.

Do my children need to learn about the importance of keeping a room neat and tidy...yes!

If I had a smaller family, it might be a different story, maybe not...but with a smaller house and a lot of bodies in my home - the cushion battle just wasn't worth it.

Now that I have older children - guess what? I still don't have many cushions - because it is not something that I care about. I care more about the feeling in our home than whether or not my home looks like it comes from a home furniture catalogue.

Have my children learnt to take care of things around the home? Yes, they have.
Did they really need to learn this lesson from a couch cushion? No.

Since that time I have been more conscious of making changes in my home and with my family because of the peer pressure from others. If I am happy with the decision I have made to not purchase extra items to make my home look a certain way - then that is all that matters.

My kids don't need cushions on our couch. They bring their bedding into the lounge for fun activities and family chats. We have survived many years without the extra cushions and have done just fine.

Maybe one day I will have a couch with nice cushions. But, by then I will hopefully have some grandchildren and if they are anything like my kids - cushions will be weapons as well!

New Zealand Native Forest Zipline Tour

When planning our epic New Zealand adventure, a must do on our list was to go on a zipline tour in the Forest. I simply adore the forest in New Zealand, it is so lush and vibrant!

We decided to do our zipline tour in Rotorua with the Rotorua Canopy Tour who provide the only native forest zipline canopy tour in New Zealand.  It is a three hour tour and looks a little like this below:

Not only is the zipline tour fun but it is also educational regarding forest care and proceeds from your ticket price go towards restoring the beautiful forest we were able to enjoy. Win/win!

Neither Chelsea, Nathan or myself had been on a zipline adventure before so we were all a little nervous at the start but after our first attempt we felt right at home and were able to let go and fly hands free down the zipline!

Here are a few snaps of us before we took on the longest zipline on the course - 220 metres long:

The weather was perfect for our canopy tour and we had so much fun that we soon forgot that the greenery we could see below was actually the top of very tall trees growing on the forest floor!

We found our guides were wonderful with safety, were patient with our learning of zipline skills, had an excellent sense of humour and were really knowledgable regarding the local wildlife and native forest.

The time went really fast on the tour and we really appreciated the reminder from the guides to take the time to look around and to appreciate the majestic scenery. It was so lovely to escape into the forest and to connect with nature. We all felt is was a wonderful gift to appreciate the forest in such a way and it was a highlight of our trip to New Zealand.

A fun part of the tour was that the guides would encourage us to be adventurous with our zipline skills. They had us acting like birds, taking off backwards and trying new moves. They also demonstrated their own daredevil zipline skills which I am never, ever going to be brave enough to attempt!

A favourite part of the tour for Nathan and I was on the last zipline of the day - after some serious encouragement from our guides - we decided to be brave and flipped ourselves upside down and did an upside down zipline. So fun and memorable!

If you ever get over to New Zealand near Rotorua, check out this tour!

Stepping Up To Be Judged On Social Media

One of the hardest life lessons I have had to learn since writing a blog is the power in embracing vulnerability. When you write down your thoughts, your opinions and share your challenges in life and publish them for the world to read on social media - you are in essence stepping up to be judged.

In fact, you are in a way inviting people to judge you. "Hey, look at me and what I have to say!" Having a blog is like stepping up to the podium in your own little corner of the blogosphere with the audience or readers you have attracted.

Posting pictures on Instagram or on any other social media platform invites people to form an opinion about your life. Putting yourself out there naturally comes with a certain level of criticism. Not everyone is going to agree with how you think or be inspired by the way you are living your life. We shouldn't expect them to either.

When you open yourself up to criticism, being vulnerable needs to sit well with you. Over the years I have gone through stages where I felt very comfortable with who I am and with the opinions I have shared. I moved on quickly from criticism and kept writing and sharing.

It takes courage to be vulnerable and it is hard to have that courage every single day!

At times I haven't had enough courage to withstand the criticism and have taken breaks from my writing and blog. I have withdrawn into the comfort of my family to strengthen myself and to work my way back into the vulnerability circle.

Brene Brown encourages people to show up and be seen, to embrace vulnerability. Doing this requires a healthy self esteem and in today's world of anonymous comments and keyboard warriors who seek to tear down and destroy people over the smallest issues - you have to have a tough exterior to handle the fiery arrows.

Life is messy. Families are messy. Relationships are messy. We all live messy lives. Choosing to share parts of our messy lives I believe is important. It helps us to know we are not alone and it helps other people know they are not the only one making mistakes in life.

Gosh! I have made my fair share of mistakes and especially as a parent!

I try to be honest and to share those moments here in my small blog space and feel that my readers appreciate me doing so. Right now, I feel comfortable in my vulnerability space and hope to be able to stay there for the rest of the year.

As a disclaimer I have to add that although I have received my fair share of criticism over the years I have also received way more love and support. I have made great friends through my blog and met many amazing people. In my eyes, the good that came into my life far out weighed the bad.

However, I have had a lifetime of learning and practising vulnerability. Our children who are growing up in a world of technology and social media over sharing haven't had the time to learn this skill as much as we have as adults. They face a greater judgement then we did in our youth and we have many conversations about social media sharing in our home.

Our children are going to share pictures/words/thoughts on social media and make mistakes. As parents it is important to accept that they will make mistakes and talk to them about how they could have made another choice. I know that my children are going to make many mistakes in relation to social media and I see it as my responsibility to keep an eye on what they are sharing so that we can talk about making better choices.

It is hard as a parent to give your children permission to make mistakes because we can face the judgement of others. There are also consequences for mistakes and we often can't control the results of those consequences. Sometimes they affect other people and once again we can face judgement.

Building a healthy self esteem in our children has never been so important. They need strategies to help deal with the criticism and a loving support network around them to help them know they are loved. They need to know they are enough - just the way they are.

As I get older I am slowly learning the life lesson that life is too short to care about what other people think. I don't want to let that hold me back from having fun. Keyboard warriors - what keyboard warriors?

A Goal Accomplished To Run 1000km in 2016

I live for goals. I find joy in setting them and every greater joy in accomplishing them.

At the beginning of the year, I set a couple of running goals. One of them was to run a total of 1000km's in 2016. This was a goal that I had never achieved before. In 2015 I started off really well working towards that goal but feel apart during the year and didn't make it to 1000km's.

Life happens, right!

I decided that 2016 was going to be my year to accomplish my 1000km running goal. My plan was that if I could get a good head start at the beginning of the year then I would be able to give myself plenty of time to finish the goal off in the last half of the year.

Thankfully this year, I was able to make that plan happen and I was way ahead by the time the half way mark rolled around. Whew!

This is me above telling myself I am super awesome and a runner and I can reach my goals and make dreams come true. To be honest, it takes a lot of positive self talk to get me moving and some days I am exhausted just getting out the door!

I set this 1000km goal to help keep me motivated and moving when I didn't feel like getting out of bed. I find having a number to work towards is good for me. I like watching the numbers build up and to see myself working closer to my goal.

I need to see progress to push myself to run and crossing off numbers helps me to feel like I am progressing. My ultimate goal is to go out running because I love it and I enjoy it. I am still working towards that goal although I have to admit that this year I have had many runs where I really did enjoy it!

For the last 6 months of the year I had this piece of paper below hanging in my kitchen. Every time I went for a run I would walk in the door and write down a new number. It was wonderful to see the numbers growing bigger and bigger and also a way that my family could encourage me to keep going.

In the last month of the year, this month, December I finally was able to add the number 1000 to my piece of paper. What a wonderful feeling that was! Part of me was in disbelief that I actually accomplished my goal and part of me felt relieved that it was over! Ha ha!

Looking back over the year, I can see how this goal helped me in so many ways. Taking care of my physical health helped my mental health and if you are interested you can read the main reasons why I run HERE: Running takes care of my health.

I also have to give a big mention to the fantastic ladies who belong to Operation Move. I could not have achieved this goal without their cheering, love and support.

Now I am wondering what sort of goal I can make for 2017.

A change of attitude for 2017

I have been noticing a recurring theme and attitude from people regarding the year 2016 - they have hated this year! I have been seeing over and over on facebook people sharing status updates that they can't wait for this year to be finished and that it has been one of the hardest years to get through.

I even found myself recently sharing the same thoughts and attitude with my husband. This led to a discussion about how every year seems to be getting harder and harder to get through. The older we get, the faster the year goes by and the challenges seem to become more complex!

Most of my complaining about 2016 simply comes down to attitude. My attitude has needed some serious reworking over the years. It is something I am constantly working on and a weakness of mine.

I even remember writing a blog post about how 2014 sucked! Not much has changed!

My husband and I talked about how we have so many conveniences to make life easy for us that we then expect life to be easy as well. We often forget that there will be days full of sorrow and sadness. When our heart hurts.

So when those days come upon us, we are shocked and don't know how to deal with the feelings and situation surrounding them.

The reality is that life is hard for most of us and the mundane routine of life can hold very few moments of pure joy and happiness!

When we look back on the year the first thing that can pop into our minds can be the hard times, the challenges and the sorrow we have felt. We forget to take the time to look back and search for and remember the good.

All of us have good moments but they are often fleeting.
Small snatches of joy that if we don't stop and appreciate them, are lost, buried in our memory.

So to help myself have a change of attitude I have been attempting to write out a list of positive, fun filled moments that happened to me in 2016 so that I can go into 2017 with a better attitude.

Armed with good vibes ready to face the new challenges that 2017 will bring.

I am a obsessive list maker and creating my '2016 joyful moments list' has been fun. I have had many wonderful moments that when I shifted my focus, were able to shine more in my mind.

It has also been a chance to reflect back on how I have grown this year. My confidence has taken a real boost with starting University and what a difference that has made to my life!

This year I have made new friends, achieved running goals, handed in all my Uni assignments on time, seen my kids achieve personal goals and slept better than I have in a long time!

I have much to be grateful for.

I just need to work on keeping that at the front of my mind...
Not buried way down the back!

P.S: I love this idea from Katherine on my facebook page:
I have seen a suggestion that you start the year with a big empty jar and when something good happens, you write it on a piece of paper and pop it in the jar. Then at the end of the year, you can look back and see the good, rather than focus on the bad.